Strawberry Season

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Ever since I can remember, my mom would take us strawberry picking as kids. We would get up early to beat the heat, and head to Hilger’s Farm Market. Once there, we piled into a trailer that gets pulled by a tractor out to the strawberry fields. I know, it sounds slightly ‘hick’, but it really adds to the whole experience.

Once you get off of your tractor trailer, you are directed to a row and it’s all yours! When we were younger, my brother Kyle and I would leave with berry stained faces and hands. I’m assuming we most likely ate more than we picked. Have you ever eaten a juicy strawberry, warm from the sun? Ah, the simple pleasures of life.

This is another example of why locally grown, in season produce always tastes the best. Try a hard, hollow, white strawberry from the grocery store and compare it with one of these. I could be the prune lady in the tv commercials, but with strawberries. But alas, that is not my battle at the moment. I have strawberries that need to be put to culinary use.

First up, Strawberry Cream Puffs with Rose Cream (recipe follows at bottom). I piped pate a choux dough into balls slightly larger than a quarter – these should be dainty – and after baking and cooling, cut the top 1/3 of the puff off. Pate a choux is a remarkable type of pastry. As it bakes, it creates a sturdy shell, while leaving the inside moist and hollow, perfect for filling. I filled the bottom of the puff with thinly sliced fresh strawberries, piped rose cream on top, and topped with a few strips of lemon zest. Beautiful.

Remember that if you ever make a filled pate a choux product, it needs to be filled shortly before serving otherwise it will get soggy.

Seeking inspiration from some succulent Greek yogurt, I was inspired to make a second dessert, Lemon Financiers with Macerated Strawberry Salad and Greek yogurt. Financiers are moist delicious little cakes made from almond flour. The almonds bring a great deal of moisture to the financier. The strawberries are sweet, so I wanted the financier to have a bit of tartness to it, hence the lemon. And what says summer better than lemon?

While my financiers were baking, I sliced strawberries and tossed them with muscavado sugar (similar to a dark brown sugar), a little lemon juice, and fresh basil and mint. If you let them sit for a bit, the sugars will dissolve with the strawberry juices and create the most lovely little sauce. You can do this with most fruits. I mixed a smidge of vanilla paste with Greek yogurt since I am obsessed with the look of vanilla seeds. The Greek yogurt is creamy, rich, and tart, much needed to contrast with the sweet lemon cake and juicy berries.

Our last subjects are Berry Tartlets with Lemon Cream. Thin, crunchy shortbread crust, rich tangy lemon cream, and berry topping. Freshly sliced strawberries and blueberries were mixed with some of my mom’s homemade strawberry jam that had been warmed slightly so it was liquid. This makes the berries shiny and helps keep them fresh longer.

Of course, you can always eat the fresh berries plain, warm from the sun, like I’ve done for years.

Rose Cream (Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons rose water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
  • Pink food coloring, optional

In a chilled bowl, whip the cream with 1 teaspoon of rose water until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar and whip until the cream holds a soft shape. Taste a bit of the cream, add a bit more sugar and/or drops of rose water to your taste, then finish whipping the cream to the desired stiffness.

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